It’s hard to imagine that it has been a short 14 months since Kelvin “Shugy” was declared the United Progressive Party (UPP) Candidate for St. Mary’s South.
On August 21, 2022, the UPP General Council ratified decisions taken by the Party’s Executive Committee, recommending Simon, who had emerged as the front-runner in the constituency polls.
Simon, in a brief acceptance speech, indicated that his interest in politics had been sparked since 2004 and that he was humbled by his selection as a Candidate for the UPP, a Party that he had long admired.
Although Simon was a talented national basketball player, most had never heard of Shugy in political circles.
As it turns out, this professional guidance counselor and entrepreneur with roots firmly established in the community of St. Mary’s South, was well known among the young and old, as a humble respectable young man who was committed to helping others and mentoring the youth.
He was also known for his annual feeding program to help the needy, community clean ups, basketball camps and other sporting activities.
Shugy’s nomination was seen as an injection of new energy on the UPP slate, but it was not without controversy, as some Branch members in St. Mary’s South opposed the replacement of Cortwright Marshall. So, while many welcomed him as a fresh face with a new vision, Shugy had inherited a fractured Party Branch that needed to heal. The date of the general elections was not yet known, but Shugy recognized that he had less than 6 months to sell himself while strengthening his team.
Encouraged by polling data that showed that he was leading all hopefuls in the constituency, Simon hit the campaign trail running, demonstrating that he was ready for the fight.
He did his first political interview on Sept 1st, on the Knight @Nights Show and he was a hit.
Many tuned in to hear this new candidate who seemed to have so many odds stacked against him. Listeners liked his calm, confident demeanor, and his determination to empower the youth seemed to resonate with the public.
Simon immediately became active on social media, sharing personal and Party content to effectively engage his followers and sell his plans and programs. In a noticeably short period of time, “Shugy fever” began to spread beyond the St. Mary’s South Constituency to all corners Antigua and Barbuda. At the time, he was still a full-time employee at Mary’s Secondary School and so he had to manage his time and his visibility to avoid potential conflicts.
Within a month of his nomination as a UPP Candidate, Shugy suffered great adversity and lost his mom to breast cancer. With everything going on around him, he had to take time off to attend her funeral in Atlanta, GA. With little time to mourn, Shugy described that period in his life as “baptism by fire.”
But Shugy was undeterred, and his popularity continued to grow. He blended easily into the Party’s hierarchy and participated in a range of activities on the Events Calendar, including the Small Business Pull Up. Simon quickly organized the event and was scheduled to support over 30 small businesses.
He managed to patronize small businesses in Urlings, Johnson’s Point and Darkwood. But once the caravan reached Bolans, there was a confrontation with Labour Party supporters and the event had to be aborted.
During the altercation, the public got a sneak peek into the level of Shugy’s popularity when Polly, a local passionate personality, declared Bolans as “SHUGYLAND” on social media. Undeterred, Shugy hosted a second Small Business Pull-Up activity the following week on Oct 29th to accommodate small businesses in Bolans that he was unable to patronize a week earlier.
Simon’s popularity continued to grow as he featured prominently in various events and made the news. For example, when he attended the ABLP Townhall Meeting in Urlings, he raised several poignant issues, yet conducted himself in a respectful, statesman-like manner, while demonstrating his willingness to work as an advocate for all in the community.
As one of two national athletes on the UPP slate, Shugy was featured as an influencer and instructor in the Party’s Fitness Jam on December 8th, a highly acclaimed campaign event that helped to position the Party’s policies on Sports, Health and Wellness.
Simon was nominated as the UPP Candidate for St. Mary’s South on Dec 28thand the ABLP challenged his nomination, claiming that he was ineligible. But five months after being declared the UPP Candidate, Simon won the St. Mary’s South seat, defeating 2-term incumbent Samantha Marshall by 199 votes.
On Jan 30th, the ABLP filed a petition in the High Court challenging the legality of Simon’s nomination and election in the general elections. On February 14th Kelvin ‘Shugy’ Simon won the case challenging his nomination and was sworn in as the representative for St. Mary’s South on Feb 15th.
Simon made his first presentation in Parliament on Mar 14th and generated a lot of excitement when he declared that PM Browne’s behavior was a bad influence on the youth. He advised the Prime Minister that he needed to apologize for threatening to “tump” Asot Michael in the face and offered Browne counseling to improve his skills in conflict resolution.
During his Labour Day address, Gaston Browne bragged that the January election was not over and that the ABLP intended to go to the court to take back the St. Mary’s South seat. On Jun 7, as the court date approached, Shugy resigned to avoid a lengthy court battle. On Jun 11, Gaston Browne said he was in no rush to call the election and that he planned to “stretch it out” for as long as possible.
Once again, Shugy hit the campaign trail and on Jun 19, he hosted a Townhall Meeting in Urlings. It was chaired by Dwayne George, his campaign coordinator. On July 27, George, in an unprecedented move, joined the ABLP and replaced Samantha Marshall as Simon’s political challenger.
In preparing for the by-election, Shugy has reverted to the campaign strategy which worked well for him during the general elections by maintaining a strong media presence and high visibility on the ground.
He was nominated on October 9th and continues to run a consistent, highly organized campaign that advances creative plans and programs to improve the quality of life in St. Mary’s South.
Simon continues to garner public attention for spotlighting the government’s failures in the constituency, forcing the government to immediately address these issues that have been neglected. Shugy has coined the phrase “When Shugy speaks, Gaston acts.”
During his short political stint, Simon has become a household name and has generated significant discussion about some of the anomalies of our political system. By-elections and resignations are rare occurrences in our local politics and Shugy will be remembered for taking a bold, risky step that most politicians would never consider.
When one focuses on the proliferation of events in Simon’s short political career, it only partially explains why he has become such a media sensation and why his actions will likely become a political science case study throughout the region.
In a society where many are fed up with politics as usual, Shugy has managed to “spice” things up. Yet he has remained calm amid the mudslinging of Gaston Browne’s political tornado, finding effective ways to “rattle the PM’s chain,” while making his voice heard in a polite manner. Simon’s resignation definitely put ABLP on the defensive.
Although Gaston Browne said the election was not over, he was not prepared for Simon’s resignation, nor the “Shugy effect,” a feature which we will all be eagerly watching as Simon’s legacy and the impact on our local politics continues to unfold.
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